Three runners put loads of apparel through the paces to solve problems like shorts riding up, skirts that lead to chafing and more.
Who hasn’t purchased a new pair of shorts and excitedly gone for a run only to find yourself pulling them down constantly as your thighs chafe, chafe, chafe with each step? Or you have a cute new top that keeps riding up your torso with every burst of speed? If I wanted to show off my belly, I wouldn’t be wearing this shirt in the first place!
We found real runners in search of foolproof running gear—items that would solve their individual issues. We gathered more than 100 pieces from both big running apparel brands and smaller ones, and our testers hit the streets, trails and treadmills to find what works. If you have any of these same gripes, you may have luck with these problem solvers!
Tester: Danielle Cemprola is a WR columnist and blogger from Greer, S.C. Traditional running shorts were fine when she first started running marathons, because she was thinner. She says, “Once I got up to a healthy weight, I found that many pairs of shorts would ride up, either from the material getting caught between my thighs and bunching, or compression shorts that weren’t long enough or tight enough.”
Short Goals: “I’ve really struggled to find shorts that stay down, don’t chafe and are flattering.”
Run Stats: Cemprola runs a few days a week on roads. She’s run 50 marathons, and after recent back surgery has switched to halfs and does about one every month. She considered a couple of dozen shorts in search of three that passed her test.
Gear-Testing Lessons: “The number-one thing I learned was not to judge a book by its cover. My immediate inclination was to just test all the compression shorts, since I haven’t had good luck with ‘traditional’ running shorts lately—but I was absolutely shocked to find that there are traditional running shorts that stayed down and didn’t chafe—they’re not just for very thin people! I also learned that sizes in running shorts vary tremendously and to not take it personally. I wore a small in some brands and a large in others!”
Danielle’s top-three problem solvers…
Oiselle Strider Shorts
Cemprola likes these traditional compression-style shorts, because they “never moved while being tested and feature a 6.5-inch inseam for runners seeking more coverage.” A front pocket zips to secure a key, and the material is thicker than what you might expect but still breathable. “No chafing here!”
Pearl Izumi Pursuit 6” Short
Think you need compression shorts to prevent ride-up? Wrong! Cemprola says this material is incredibly lightweight and breezy, but the length is long enough to help it stay down and keep chafing at bay. The back pocket is suitable for a key, phone or fuel, and the wide, comfortable waistband doesn’t cut into your skin. She says, “Runners who prefer a looser fit but still want coverage will love these!”
Skirt Sports Not So Cheeky Short
For anyone looking for something in between revealing compression shorts and baggy running shorts, Cemprola says these are the Goldilocks choice. With a 5.5-inch outer layer and 6-inch inner one and a wide, comfortable waistband, they are flattering yet still modest. She does caution that they run slightly large. Her best feedback? “I took them on a run early in the week and liked them so much that I wore them for my half marathon a few days later!”
Tester: Our cover runner from the 2015 August issue, Erica Schenk, lives in Culver City, Calif., and says a lot of her previous running-pant purchases have been pretty basic. “I generally stuck to main brands like Under Amour, Nike and Adidas. I stayed away from alternative brands, colors, prints, fabrics and styles,” she explains. Her conservative purchases were a result of one main issue: “Struggling to keep your leggings up while on a treadmill is not cute. Neither is tugging them up in a crowded subway car and accidentally elbowing passengers nearby.” Through testing, she discovered many more options—and learned to appreciate pockets along the way.
Pant Goals: Don’t fall down—which leads to pulling them up constantly as well as camel toe and chafing.
Run Stats: “I run on the treadmill a few times a week for 3 to 5 miles. I prefer, however, to run in the Santa Monica coastal parks that run up and down the cliffside next to the ocean.” Schenk scrutinized 25 different bottoms to find her three best running buddies.
Gear-Testing Lessons: “I learned there are options to fix any problem. This isn’t to say it will be easy to find the solution, but there’s a good chance it’s out there somewhere. There are so many non-mainstream brands that may be better quality or more suited for your body type and needs. Your body shouldn’t be generalized, and neither should your workout gear. Find pieces that really get how you work out.”
Erica’s top-three problem solvers…
Lululemon All the Right Places Pant II
Schenk can’t stop raving about these. “Being so tall, I have come to the understanding that pants will never be long enough! Yet these have proven me wrong.” She also praises the tummy control and says she can easily bend, jump and run without feeling exposed. Thicker fabric in the back gives them extra points: “They made my butt look amazing.” They are designed without a front seam to help prevent camel toe, and they feature handy hip pockets and reflective cuffs.
New Balance Premium Performance Fashion Crop
The unique and interesting design is what initially drew Schenk to these capris. The material, which she describes as feeling more like soft leggings with cotton, is good for a little warmth—and thick enough in the rear for no-see-through squat days. The waistband is double layered, so it stays up well, and promises good durability on the elasticity front. The hip pockets are great for holding a phone while running.
Pearl Izumi W Flash 3/4 Tight
Schenk likes the length and cut of these, and the waistband is wide and snug, with an elastic band that you can tie in the front. She says the fabric feels great, moves really well and “wicks sweat away like crazy!” The neon coloring at the bottom of the tights makes for comfortable nighttime running, and two pockets—a hip pocket and zippered back pocket—are welcome any time of day.
Tester: Brandie McGhee, a massage therapist from Villa Rica, Ga., has tried skirts in the past, but either the lining would irritate or the skirt would make her look wider or the shorts would creep up and look like booty shorts. “This would cause major chafing issues,” she says.
Skirt Goals: Good coverage with shorts underneath that don’t ride up or chafe
Run Stats: McGhee likes to run early in the morning at least three to four days a week. She usually does a race or two per month and is currently on a half-marathon kick. She says, “I run because I love the personal time to release and think. Running helps me keep my weight under control, because I love to eat. I also run for the friendships.”
Gear-Testing Lessons: “I learned from this experience that I need longer shorts with great compression. I like the skirts to fit mid-thigh for movement and cuteness.”
Brandie’s top-three problem solvers…
Happy Puppies Rosie Skirt With Shorts
The 6-inch length of both the skirt and the shorts are ideal for McGhee. “They hit perfect on the thigh,” she says. “I like that the skirt material is thick enough to prevent movement up the leg. There wasn’t any ride-up of shorts underneath.” She also loves the side pockets on the skirt but finds the leg pocket to be too tight to carry items comfortably. (Available in sizes 0 to 30!)
Ryka Women’s Pursuit Running Skirt
McGhee likes the length of this skirt and its lightweight water-resistant fabric, and the solid compression of the soft shorts underneath means no movement or chafing. There’s only one pocket, and, McGhee says, “The skirt moves up to the hip area while running. It still covered the butt area but looked like you are wearing shorts over shorts.”
SparkleSkirts SwingStyle SaluteBlue
McGhee loves the mid-thigh length of this skirt and shorts “to showcase legs but not the fat areas. The skirt is also flirty, sassy, and I love the swing.” The shorts do not ride up and have good compression, which is good because the skirt can swing high enough to show the shorts while running. The fabric is lightweight, and there are three(!) pocket—two are 5-by-5 inches deep—to carry whatever you need.